[Metal/Doom] Trees Of Eternity – Hour Of The Nightingale

I wish I could have reviewed this album in a better context, but I also wanted to review this album in the memory of late Aleah Stanbridge. Aleah left us that day last year, leaving us orphan with her only album “Hour of The Nightingale”.

I started to know Aleah only after learning her death from the announcement by Juha Raivio (Swallow The Sun) last year. Sadness and tears came by listening to her ethereal  and melancholic voice, perfectly matching to the gothic and doom metal artistic style harbored by the album.

“Hour Of The Nightingale” is a 10-track album totaling 63 minutes of beautiful doom metal tracks. The album starts with “My Requiem” introducing us to Aleah’s voice and to familiar tunes, as Juha from Swallow The Sun collaborated heavily on this album, among other Finnish metal artists. It is minimal but so heavily laden with emotions through the lyrics that it infuses you with the melancholy of nostalgia. The descent in the melancholy continues with “Eye Of The Night”, “Condemned To Silence”.

“A Million Tears” brings on the doom and the gloom, making it one of my favorite. Melancholic tunes, the ethereal voice of Aleah and the lyrics loaded with sadness and full of sorrow, making it hard to keep on your tears. It wrenches your mind and makes the mourning even more painful, even after a year.

“Hour of the Nightingale” and “Broken Mirror” may sound a bit more cheerful, with a touch of sludge metal (a sub-genre in the doom metal involving an infusion of Southern metal)  in it but it is still loaded with emotions.

“Black Ocean” gives this atmospheric doom tunes that providing a soothing moment, with a remarkable instrumentation and melodics. Finally, the album closes with “Sinking Ships”, leaving us ashore with a melancholic ballad and with “Gallows Bird” featuring Nick Holmes (Paradise Lost). Minimalistic but so powerful, making a perfect bond between one pillar of Gothic/Doom metal and a new generation.

It is a remarkable and flawless album, solid as a granite tombstone, with no imperfections. Considering this was her first album, it was a remarkable piece of artwork that very few artists could master at this stage. There is no filler, there is no weak tracks. All tracks are remarkable, yet each of them with the unique identity but all sharing the same converging point: the sadness, the melancholy and the mourning of loosing our dearest.

Aleah left us taken by cancer, roughly in the same time that one of my beloved uncle also got taken away by the same type of disease (very unlikely the same type of cancer, but from the metastatic cancer cells that have spread inside his body). We came far with our fight against cancers (because each cancer is somehow unique) but we are still far over on winning that war. Until then, we will loose more talented and affectionate people from it.

RIP Aleah 😦

[Metal/Synthwave] Master Boot Record – Street Fighter II Ken stage cover

MBR has been very prolific in making synth wave covers of video games sound. Last week, we had a chance to listen to his “Super Metroid” (Ninendo – SNES) cover. Few days later, he also posted his “Street Fighter II” (Capcom) cover, recreating the tunes of “Ken Stage”.
Just listening to it is like a trigger alert, instinctively letting you shout “Ha-Du-Ken!”, some well-placed “Sho-Ryu-Ken” Dragon Punch, all on your C64 computer. For that cover, we have a clear winner: “You Win. Perfect!”

[Metal/Symphonic] Midnight Sorrow – Pick A Tale (80%)

After two long years of waiting, Midnight Sorrow (Strasbourg, France) finally released their first full length album. This French symphonic metal band fronted by Maureen had a good feedback on their first EP “At First”. Maureen voice is very interesting, because she is one of the few French metal singer that can put high notes without pushing, reaching the same tones than Tarja and Sharon.
It is a 13-track album, lasting about 63 minutes and including three remastered songs from their original EP. I will discuss more about them later.
We get into the album with “Prelude of the Night”, giving this kind of mysterious feeling, almost felt like watching the opening sequence of Dario’s Argento “Suspiria”.  The album quickly and seamlessly transition into “Glorious”, a soft introduction to the band. Its good, it is not overproduced but it is also maybe lacking a bit of a “bang” that would like when you listen a first song of an album. The third track, “Between Sun & Moon”, is a remastered version of their EP. I like it, it sounds better but in the same time not overproduced or arranged.

They keep it simple, refined but simple, with a touch of Celtic flute. “Lost for Eternity” brings on the heavier tones, surfing even into some power metal tunes.

“Black Snow” was okay but if I compare to other songs, I found it kind of weak. “Number 6” brings on the power melodics, showing the potential the band and Maureen, really make me to get out my chair and headband with my (almost) bald head :p.
We then continue with three “remixes” from songs taken from their EP, with “Crystal Drops”, “Waterfall” and “At First”. All three well arranged and really enjoyable to listen again with the new tone. “The Place” was nice to listen, mixing between the symphonic and the power melodic tones. “Phaze” is the acoustic metal ballad of the album, making you prompt to take out your lighter and slowly swing your arm. It is a very nice track. “Treasure of Your Life”, the 12th track of the album is also the longest totaling almost 12 minutes made of several acts, blending elements of symphonic and power metal. With catchy tunes and drums that make it engaging, this is my favorite of the whole album. Finally, the last track “A Last Ceremony” closes the album. It is fine, reserved but kind of left hungry.

Overall, Midnight Sorrow first album worth the discovery. In times where symphonic metal bands are fighting each others via “faster, louder and fluffier” arrangements, “Pick A Tale” comes as an elegant and delicate piece of symphonic metal album that is enjoyable without saturating your ears.
The major criticism is probably the album may have a certain bland taste, I was expecting something a bit more spicy, a bit more “piquante”, you know something to bang on.
If you have to pick an album this month and want to get out settled paths, give a try to the band.

[Metal/Gothic Metal] Within Temptation – Enter (20th Anniversary Release)

Today marks the 20th anniversary release of the first album of the Dutch Gothic/Symphonic Metal band Within Temptation.
What I can tell is after all these years, this remains my most favorite album by the band. Why?
Probably this perfect blend of doom, gothic with a pinch of symphonic metal and of course Sharon Den Adel alias “Angel Voice”.  It may also because it was the heaviest album they had in their whole discography. The album is an 8-track album totaling 46 minutes.
It starts with “Restless”, a minimal but nicely starter allowing to appreciate Sharon’s voice. A classic of all WT song. The second track, “Enter”, brings on the heavy guitars, Robert Westerholt growls and Martijn Westerholt (Delain) on the keyboards. This gives this magic formula that makes “Enter” such a good song, giving this magical and gothic feel. The third track continues in distilling this magic “Pearls of Light” with Sharon taking the lead with the sounds of the harp. Listening to this song brings this soothing relief, followed by the lead guitars smashing the heavy tones into it and giving this bipolar tunes between the heavy from the guitars and the lightness of the keyboard.
“Deep Within”, the fourth track is in the continuation of the tone of the whole album. Nice but I always felt it was the weakest of all songs, considering the whole album standing strong like a rock. “Gatekeeper”, the fifth track of the album, is my favorite of all. Heavily gothic and influenced by elements of doom metal, it is dark and gloomy with a crescendo in the instrumentation slowly adding the heaviness and boldness. I lost my voice each time I try to keep on Sharon’s frequency notes.
“Grace” is another good song (Nº6 song), especially the second half of it as Sharon takes on the main part. It is also reflecting the heavy influence of Kate Bush on Sharon singing style, using the same song dynamics than the latter used to. “Blooded” is the instrumental track of the album, a finely arranged piece that really marked the band with their signature. “Candles”, the last track, is another jewel from the album by keeping the same flow of “Gatekeeper”. It is so beautiful to listen, with its melancholic tones and Sharon soothing voice all over, only to get shaken by the heavy guitars and Robert’s growl.
If I had to go to exile with only one album from my favorite bands, this is the album I would take from Within Temptation without an hesitation. This is where I found they had their best blend and musical style before they sailed into other directions that were not following my ears.
My only wish is as we mark the 20th anniversary of that release is that the band decide to rediscover this rich and engaging style that made them at the frontier of the symphonic metal scene.

▶ [Metal/Synthmetal] Master Boot Record – Super Metroid Cover

Master Boot Record is certainly one of my favorite synth metal artist, blending the roughness of metal with primitive melodic tones straight from an 8-bit computer and from a 5.25 floppy drive.
He has been doing some video games cover recently and just released a cover from Super Metroid (Super Nintendo) that in my own opinion throws the original light years away and really wished to play that game with that soundtrack right now.
Listen and enjoy! Oh yes, if you want to hear more tunes from Master Boot Records, check his Bandcamp profile:
masterbootrecord.bandcamp.com

 

[Metal/Heavy] Iron Maiden – Number of the Beast 35th Anniversary

Today marks the 35th anniversary of Iron Maiden’s “Number of the Beast” release. 35 years and this beast has not any inch of its stamina and elegance. A damn good album it was, certainly one of my favorite from Iron Maiden by its consistency and its engaging lyrics. It was an 40 minutes beautiful album spanned over 8 tracks.
It starts with “Invaders” telling the story of Viking invaders ready to raid, loot and set ablaze. A sort of setting the path to what we refers as “Viking Metal” nowadays. It is followed by “Children of The Damned”, playing on one of the melodics that give the Iron Maiden sound, with engaging lyrics and remarkable Bruce storytelling. The third track, “The Prisoner” is directly inspired by a 60’s British TV series called “The Prisoner” in which people are trapped in a prison island, strapped from their name and referred as Numbers, with Number 6 being the main character.
The fourth track “22 Acacia Avenue” gives on the energy of Bruce and Iron Maiden, a very pleasurable experience.
Then comes one of the masterpiece of the album “The Number of The Beast”, the fifth track of the album. Introduced by Vincent Price (a master writer in science-fiction and horror), it starts into a grandiose shredding going up crescendo until Bruce starts with his mythical “Yeaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!”. The archetypical Iron Maiden song, if you never heard about Iron Maiden before, this should be your first song to listen!

We continue in the apotheosis with the legendary “Run To The Hills” marking the sixth track. Damn if there is a top 10 Iron Maiden songs, this one should be in the top 5. You get into an exalting drumbeats and guitar melodics, with the story of Native Americans told by Bruce, witnessing the arrival of the European explorers and other conquistadors. Oh yeah, thats Iron Maiden baby!

“Gangland”, the seventh track is in my opinion one of the weakest track of the album, if not the weakest one. Its good but not much arousing to my ears. But this is not enough to eclipse the last track of the album “Hallowed by Thy Name”. This has to be in your top 5 Iron Maiden songs. If I have to pick one song from this all album this is the one I pick!
Great lyrics, great melodics, great everything!

[Metal/Gig] Sweet Iris/Red Beard Wall/The Ditch & The Delta/ Rozamov – Zombiez Bar @ Yellow City (03/19/2017)

Having metal gigs in Yellow City is not common, having a doom metal band performing is even rarer than a blue moon. However, that does not mean it will not happen. It is all about probability and last night it happened.
Yes, the date was awkward (Sunday for a gig is maybe not the best night to play a concert) but it was indeed a very kind gesture from the bands to stop by and play at the Zombiez Bar (the local spot for any metal gig in YC).
The gig started with Sweet Iris (?), playing some good old psychedelic rock as a warmup, giving the vibes of the early 70s scene, including early keyboard arrangements. I could not find more about the band, so if they recognize themselves please let me know.

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The second band playing was Red Beard Wall (Plainview, TX), a a skeleton crew metal band raising the potentiometer into heavier stuff and bringing on the heavy riffs as the night was settling.

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The third band to perform was the Ditch and The Delta (Salt Lake City, UT) bringing on the heavy stuff (https://theditchandthedelta.bandcamp.com/releases). The sound was becoming heavier and slower, just in time, bringing the doom metal atmosphere as the night became darker and colder.  These guys are touring around Utah and it was a pleasure to have them come in town. If you are living around Utah watch out for their gig, some good stuff. Also a kudos to the drummer, a headbanger and Trekkie fellow :).

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Finally, the “plat de resistance” was Rozamov (Boston, MA; https://rozamov.bandcamp.com). I did not realize these guys were from Boston and one of the guitarist was fairly surprised to see me harboring a “Armageddon Records” tee. It was pure coincidence when I was picking my tee prior attending the concert. I bought it when I was touring Boston last summer before attending a scientific meeting (I take a couple of hours during my scientific meetings to visit local metal records store as we have no more record shop in town, leaving Best Buy the only store selling physical copies). Finally, listening to some doom played live was worth the waiting. I have to salute the band decision to stop by YC on their way to Albuquerque (playing there this evening) and playing in town. It was heavy, slow and depressing, as you expect from any doom. Really some good stuff to try if you have been running over your Candlemass, Ahab, My Dying Bride and looking for some fresh tunes to listen, you should give them a try.

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If I had an only wish, I wished they were playing in town during a weekend evening. Starting a Monday sleep-deprived is not the best idea but honestly for the evening I had it was worth.